January 15, 2015

To Make Us Feel Less Alone: On ‘The David Foster Wallace Reader’ 30


Wallace’s complex mind and neurotic tendencies found their most successful (i.e. accessible and popular) outlet in nonfiction, and that although history may remember his novels and stories as his most important contributions to literature, his nonfiction is more successful in doing what he aimed to do with literature and more representative of who he was as a person and a writer.

January 8, 2015

Loneliness, Interrupted: Edith Pearlman’s Honeydew 0


Pearlman repeatedly thrills us by opening up secret worlds, and it’s because of the exquisite care with which these worlds are formed that we come to care deeply about her people (“characters” just doesn’t cut it).

November 28, 2014

The Elusive Qualities of Dreams: On Haruki Murakami’s ‘The Strange Library’ 6


Everything that comes to pass in ‘The Strange Library,’ like in so much of Murakami’s fiction, questions the differences between what is real and what is not, and whether such a distinction even matters.

November 28, 2014

Her Well-Spent Adulthood: On Meghan Daum’s ‘The Unspeakable’ 2


In its own, understated, comic way, The Unspeakable is a very ambitious book, one that attempts to chart a personal evolution, while at the same time acknowledging that the idea of personal growth is at best absurd.

November 25, 2014

Literature Isn’t a Religion, It’s a Country: On Azar Nafisi’s ‘The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books’ 3


If you’re looking for an easy road map to human ethics, literature ain’t the place for you.

November 24, 2014

The Land of Ice and Snow: On Lars Iyer’s ‘Wittgenstein Jr.’ 2


No one’s sure whose idea it was to call the new professor Wittgenstein, but it seems somehow fitting. He is a maddening teacher. No one quite follows what he’s trying to convey. But he seems, in some essential way, like the real thing.

November 19, 2014

Emancipation from Irony: On ‘The Best American Comics 2014′ 5


When you read a comic, you are accepting a direct message from one singular honest soul. Your hand touches theirs. That soul can be strange. That soul can be sick. And it can also be oh-so earnest,

November 17, 2014

In a Toxic Dreamscape: On Denis Johnson’s ‘The Laughing Monsters’ 1


Denis Johnson’s newest novel twists the formula of the spy thriller into a blistering, bleakly funny portrait of modern-day West Africa

November 14, 2014

To Hell with All that Guilty Love: On Steve Almond’s ‘Against Football’ 7


Wrapping up issues of corporate welfare, media sycophancy, sanctioned brutality, and beating them with an angry stick, Almond’s screed is less an assault on football than the organization that aids and abets its worst behavior.

November 12, 2014

Writing Out West: On Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering 2


What I admired most about these essays is the way each one takes its own shape, never conforming to an expected narrative or feeling the need to answer all the questions housed within. D’Ambrosio allows his essays their ambivalence.